A Ghost Story

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A Ghost Story

Directed by David Lowery, Produced by Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Adam Donaghey, Written by David Lowery

Cast, Casey Affleck as C, Rooney Mara as M, Will Oldham as Prognosticator, Sonia Acevedo as Maria, Rob Zabrecky as Pioneer Man, Liz Franke as Linda, Grover Coulson as Man in Wheelchair, Kenneisha Thompson as Doctor, Barlow Jacobs as Gentleman Caller, McColm Sephas Jr. as Little Boy, Kesha as Spirit Girl.

Music by Daniel Hart, Cinematography Andrew Droz Palermo, Edited by David Lowery, Production company Sailor Bear, Zero Trans Fat Productions, Ideaman Studios, Scared Sheetless.  Duration, 1hr 37mins. Country, United States, Language English.  Rating 12a.

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Unconventional and Astonishing 

Classic literature and cinema as varied as Virginia Woolf and “Beetlejuice.” “Poltergeist” inhabit this film.

This is as good a ghost story as your ever likely to see. Not that it’s a conventional form of the horror genre some taking a straight read from the title might anticipate.  It is highly original and dependant on your immersion into its delivery as the tautly drawn characters of the two principles, Rooney Mara as M and Cassey Affleck as C portray the sadness of loss which pulls apart their life as it edges forward with expectations and a highly developed bond halted by arbitrary cruelty.

With a simple device of a costume, in A Ghost Story, David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) is able to fix on place as an integral point of storytelling narrative.  Things happen here in a plot development. Beyond the central presence of the Ghost which is C, Casey Affleck there is a scoping out of place and locality in this borough within Texas.  Corporate America even has a small role. Fundamentally it explores the universe as well as being reliant on the sciences of otherness available with an eye to see, the night sky.  Here it is intensified like a kaleidoscopic moving tableau, like rain in suspension but a surreality we are cosmically involved with some way or other.

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Haunted House some quotes from the Director.

Huffington Post Matthew Jacobs note.  “A Ghost Story” opens with a quote from “A Haunted House,” a Virginia Woolf story that captures an entire lifetime of experiences in fewer than 700 words. “Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting,” a black screen declares within the first few minutes. Woolf’s paragraph continues thusly: “From room to room they went, hand in hand, lifting here, opening there, making sure―a ghostly couple.”

“Virginia Woolf’s literature really transformed my own ideas about how to formally represent the passage of time and how time affects us,” Lowery said. “Specifically, the benchmarks are Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and Orlando, all of which have time as a central conceit.” 

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Other people pass through

There are parallax views.  One story within the story is of an occupant of the house, a single Spanish speaking mother who is herself confronted by a ghost.  Her children encounter the disturbance of C presenting himself with only the boy initially seeing this being.  They possibly have a backstory which is perhaps their father as the presence which is their own manifestation of the unreal other world beyond their life boundary.  Only later will it become evident, a house can have competing ghosts.  Also nearby in the house next door is a lost spirit Ghost who has no perception of why the place they are in is of their history.  History is mentioned and M who provides many percussive notes, like tiny bells being hit and signalling to you pellets of knowledge to be taken and consumed. For History C declares its place in his feelings for the house.  M alternatively connects, ‘is got history, not as much as you think.’    This in fact is like a mutation.  In the story this place has several visitors, from frontierspeople, the hopeful Europeans in search of Gods land.  The Real Estate entrepreneurs making a new kingdom – which C visits and observes from foundation stone to its topping out.  This is the same place.

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A vision appears here of a future landscape with Corporate identities fresh and graphic lighting in colour and multiple skyscraping buildings a city advanced on the adjustments made by time.  Sure it has history but it is not one of connection except through sentiment. There is a science where a note is left under a stone.  There is another where a note is slid behind the architrave of the house M and C lived in on a frame which is adjacent to a continual natural, unreal shadow refraction which both caressing their minds. People it is observed like to leave elements behind for others to find. There is not much dialogue and in the beginning as the couple first get out of their small double bed on account of hearing a noise in the night, (the previous ghost?) or the house guest piano – came with the house – vibrating unseen, both go and investigate.  We as observers are on the slow smooth ghostly pace tracking them and stop outside the room.  Rooney Mara draped in a towel stands beyond the doorway as C walks the length of the room to explore.  This is the living room with the old piano still intact and itself a companion piece to the film in oblique ways.  On one occasion it is a dismembered upturned cabinet with its keys still there, barely recognisable but repairable, for anyone with a liking to play something, say Beethovens 9th.

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Ghost in the House

When they return to bed M’s heart beating fast. David Lowery cleverly remains here with an overhead shot as they both return to each other’s space and join up in sharing their life’s existence to almost the point they breathe together at the same pace and heartbeats are in concert.  It has an effecting balancing within the whole locality as well as a very important persuasive points this unified couple with such hope abroad.  It is such a strong and delicate subtle and delicious scene it lets you absorb its connotations and later place them back into the story.  Brilliance of a kind.  Supremely well acted as well it is a powerful force of the life affirmation in the relationship.  A ghost will not trouble them.  You will encounter some issues of these. Small cases full of big dreams. Intensity. Complexity. Surreality. Verity. Impossibility.

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Holistic Cosmos 

The importance of the assessment of life and the creative notion of another world begin where someone prefers to live.

There is only one resolved thing. The present. Neither the future or past can be resolved as we trustingly use memory to embark on journeys of remembrance and formation of reality. The questions keep coming. How has the past concealed such important facts? The facts that determined, while not looking, a life and future. They seem obvious truths but they never occurred to be anyones making. Love existing in places in never looked. Absent or in a void time was wasted, believed in and never saw through.

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Uniform form

Reflection and light is spectral. I organises sight and who we are and shows to others us. The Ghost is in sight as we are in darkness not present in the presented world now visited but part of its recollection. The feeling of being there is real because the emotional state has gone beyond the physical messages. They are not suppressed but surpassed and para-normality, a sense of altered state, is how The Ghost Story perpetuates a vision gone and unsettled. You are just a visitor with only part of the software codes that are in many others hands. Their codes differ and where they link is found meaning and the whole is realised but it’s gaps too are seen as vast empty spaces. The film reveals a pattern and the void. No one has a complete code. Only each will fit and link with the whole as that is the uniformity we share but do not control.

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Bearing comparison

It compares and contrast well with the last memorable Ghost story I really liked Under the Shadow. Similarly the tight reliance on a few characters and the participation of the audience in dissembling the psychological elements and triggers which evoke a personal intimate portrait of someone at the edge of their perception of life. We are here asked to go with the rally M makes as she is so young and will her on. Similarly the female lead in Under the Shadow is in crisis and she internalises it to such a degree she turns her daughter into a powerful spirit who is really in control. But who is in control. Perceptions are what dement her placing new zones of reality in her intellectual capacity to self perceive.

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Form of the narrative
From the beginning this is a story of a couple separated by death. Casey Affleck is of course the Ghost. To take us from the beginning and the split of the loving relationship we see developing, manifest, we are taken into several layers of the sense of place and location by previous and future occupancy of the small piece of land they presently occupy. The principle one ocourse being M and C.

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With an explanation to follow of the relationship and ultimate separation between M and C with the film, showing us they profundity of the new irrevocable relationship – however stagnant or in limbo – we see other people in the second half of the film who come to live there. As implied elsewhere the Spanish speaking family could have been previous occupants. There is a shared house occupancy which is contemporaneous of a group of young people with an older set of cultural disseminators. They are the generation – here in Northern Ireland they are post conflict thirty, forty something, ‘normal’ folk rejecting religion as it is a burden too far, who neverthelesssee in themselves a spiritual dimension nothing speaks to them on. Reliance on ‘adventure’ through mind camps at pseudo intellectual festivals, incorporating everything back into the beat poets and tangentially different racial perspectives right through to the cloak and dagger of science, chemistry and cosmology such as Dr Grof and experiments with oneself is the landscape.

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Prognosticator

Here we have another piece of cultural visitation made eloquently and volubly by a prognosticator who in the shared house at a point in the discussions creates a monologue of totemic breadth while counterpointing the intangibility of a mixed opinion while individual thought (Virginia Wolff enlightenment again) is beyond everyday expression and meaning which shows languages limits. It’s like the search for liberty itself. Liberty is silence. The prognosticator is another giant positive aspect of this film’s trajectory. The meaning being in the above analysis of its own unalterable material restraint and restriction. So the layers alternate and combine to show the second half after this first piece of the story emerges.  This s like a diaphragm of the body of the piece.

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Emergence
When we see M return home in the earliest post death period and see her adjustment move gradually, she is able to leave her door unlocked and a friend comes into the house. She leaves on the living room table a condolence pie. Observed in every action by C Who is standing alongside. The pastry crusted pie is cooked and chilled and covered in silver foil with a note C reads. You are about to witness an extraordinary piece of Cinema. In single take.

M returns shortly afterwards and we have one of the most beautifully crafted scenes of all as M discovers this gift. The extraordinary passage was done twice to arrive at what we witness. The lighting is superb and we see the 4:3 format provide a framing of the notion of grief. From M’s perspective she is responding to a good will gift. C is static and his presence in frame has a bizarre intimacy. Loss on both sides of life. When David Lowery filmed this he was aware of what he wanted from it in terms of dealing with grief but was unaware of reactions it would present or indeed his own. It is of such a forceful affecting mechanical, subjective, composition it tears pages out of the manual of how grief is present and dealt with. There is nothing like it and David Lowery I believe was totally unexpectedly thrown by the effect it makes. The simplicity delivers enormous value for the passage known to almost everyone of process and holding onto a person without abandoning them in the passage through their loss. Internally the scene also contains a love of an entirely invisible remaining link shown never ending. It is mesmerising, spellbinding, hypnotic and compelling.


Observatory

Without going too far into it, the observance is a fixed frame of this location. Its essence of homeliness still intact and reinforced in its simplicity and we are able to ingest the character of M while sharing her current state. It is unnerving and is an essay on the life, life itself. Goodness is everywhere. It can be taken at the stride and in balance. No references are immediately at hand as she is struck by loneliness. You cannot imagine what she is thinking but David Lowery allows multiple interpretations on the factual life, the reality, the past and present in a reorganised place is encapsulated, virtually incontrovertible and not a place any what to be in. The condolence pie has many sweet and sour notes like life itself. It must not be seen as manna from heaven but a part of the passage through. Sweetness and tart combine unbelievably. Food also is life. David Lowery allows this to prove a point in a seminal way and for it to be impactive, providing you with the choice of taking or leaving its core, as it is intensely complex and as multi-tonal as to be as important a piece of Cinema you wish it to be. It’s about you or versions of you as you may have been or shall become. C sees it all. Essentially it provides intangible truth people do not have access to. This never happens.

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Unalloyed brilliance.

I am utterly astounded at how this no-budget movie has in its basic feature film length taken on polarities of our lives as widely, rich, intoxicating as showing for example, the history of the USA and the individual practices and compliances that combine, combined to create the present. The past is visited in the vertical thin pinhooking of a place in Texas. Bosque County. Two principle characters perform the Everyman embodiment of highly normal and undemanding ambitions for themselves as people the future comes from. They are unaware of the agonies arbitrarily ahead of them which they gladly accept for alternatives are rare and we are likewise propelled into a set of new observations which cause you to question the creation and our very existence in this universal dream. The management of life is so finely balanced and M, Rooney Mara, whose playing is immersive and intensely readable, is incredibly persuasive. Casey Affleck as C, is the Everyman with which the connections in the intimate compass, so important and fundamental are joined. They are on the cusp of a beginning and actually on a mission to trade up and ship out of the Texas location they are in; the ideal is itself not sufficient it would appear, and the plans fall apart. The single storey longhouse has a verandah and a connecting rooms layout with all the basic needs and more. The tone is set by a small upright piano which has a sky of thoughts and melodies in its 88 keys.

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Conclusion ##### 5

This is an astonishing film.

It depends so much on your rallying to its central characters two lives. The place of other personalities are just that. Personalities they have no connection with other than the third character, the place. Yet the place could be anywhere. There could be multiple variations of this and I really hope it happens. Taking the basic premise of people in a location which is their locality of living could be set in China, South Korea. France or Ireland. Anywhere basically. It takes just two matched people and a place which – inevitably – has its own back story. It’s like walking on a Donegal beach and forgetting the sand has been hewn from famine victims bones as well as layers of rock and cascading waves. Every step is on someone else’s place and it is to be taken at the deliverance given by God without hurt or harm. The point is to take those steps unfearful.  C is a ghost who retains fear and exercises it and implodes at times.
The film is just astonishing and it is by degrees as evocative as Virginia Wolff’s visionary, exponentially multifaceted, personal intellectual integration with life which she held up and outside looking back down into meaning as seen for herself and how others perceived meaning.

John Graham

9 August 2017

Belfast

A GHOST STORY will screen at QFT from Friday 11th August 2017 until Thursday 24th August 2017.

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The Secret Scripture : A Film Review


The Secret Scripture

Director Jim Sheridan, Producer Noel Pearson, Screenplay by Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson. Cast, Vanessa Redgrave, Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Theo James, Aidan Turner, Jack Reynor, Susan Lynch, Siobhan Redmond, Adrian Dunbar. Music by Brian Byrne, Cinematography Mikhail Krichman, Edited by Dermot Diskin, Production company, Ingenious Senior Film Fund, Voltage Pictures, Ferndale Films. Cert. 12a. Duration 1hr 48mins.


Beyond Dublin in the Green

Some people have got this film horribly wrong and are unable to cross over into it’s tragedy in a trinity of hope. The Irish Times gives it this ‘tribute’ – What’s that? Who’s he? Where’d that come from? When Barry’s novel was published, several critics argued that the final unlikely twist felt at odds with a hitherto disciplined narrative. It says something about the film that the reversal feels perfectly at home among so many even greater lunacies. It even casts sectarianism into a new vein without making comment of how diffuse these things are to convey – it seems in a blind alley Ireland. The mastery of the Bible both potent and conclusive lends written comfort to Rose, a woman betrayed.  It is within the unspoken reading between the lines we go with this film based on the novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry which makes for more imagining than the act of storytelling in film this is.  Nevertheless it is handled extremely carefully with a melding of eras and in themselves drawing comparisons.  The landscape is more familiar to the Irish and the need to know (Philomenas Story is a close relative) diaspora from Canada, America or Britain whose children are the fathers and mothers of new generations of the ‘departed’.  In complete association too are those left beneath fields, institutions buried so none would reflect on their memory except the mothers and those in the know.  From Priests to Police to Orderlies. Into the equationn come knowing townsfolk contributing to the complicity and getting on with their lives by ignoring it in order to straighten their own existence in the changing world.  For the story to begin we enter the present day at Rose’s Hospital and Residential Care home in the midst of it closing down.  Some lessons are learnt and there is clearly an attempt by Director Jim Sheridan to acknowledge Times have changed and the bullying and treatment of people like animals has been removed.  In this present environment there is real care and a making good with what is at hand.  Even the prospect of Rose being able to go to somewhere other than a mental asylum has reared its head.

With the dramatic stroke of a pen Sebastian Barry conjures up a back story to the aging and institutionalised grande dame Vanessa Redgrave playing Roseanne McNulty whose 50 years committal to this decaying and listed for demolition Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, is transported on the journey of her earlier life and circumstances.  Doctor Grene (Eric Bana) is sent to determine whether Roseanne is fit to be released.  The younger Rose is played by the affluent and Irish connected, Rooney Mara whose arrival in a small village in 1940s Ireland causes two men, a fighter pilot and a priest, played by Jack Reynor and Theo James.


New horizons revisited

Jim Sheridan has Oscar-winning debut My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father as home based movies and into Irishmans habitual magnetic pull to tales of immigration he went and it did not fail him with the exile story In America, and was an acclaimed award winning film also.  Some subsequent entries to the mainstream movie still didn’t seem to suit his work and this is a return of more recognisable formats and it is an attempt by Sebastian Barry to story tell the periods which define present day Ireland the diaspora and wars intervention.  This of course brings in relationships as the bolstering narrative force.  The auld triangle of a beautiful young woman and two bantam cocks clanging the auld triangle and creating conflicts?

Rose has kept a dairy all these years and we enter its tableau – shortly into the arrival of Rooney Mara from Belfast where it’s unsafe after bombing there.  The arrival of a beautiful independent woman is on this West Ireland landscape in the shadow of Yeats Benbullben outside Sligo, is to an already developed hybrid of gentry, Anglo patrons and a subdued, suppressed by Religion ‘compliant’ malcontented population.  They are not mercifully at war though many across Ireland went and fought alongside the British as it was 1. an option 2. There was little for them at home.  The mainstay of any small community is its perverse sense of hierarchy and those who disobey and act up are likely cast out.  Rose is recruited into her Aunts Hotel Temperance establishment and quickly the honeypot of the scented air takes her into the midst of village taboos.  The first ‘normal’ encounter is with a young man called Conroy a labourer for a hard nosed local family.  They have a built in hatred on the English and when there is another approach not altogether religious and skirting his own anxieties surrounding masculinity and his sacrifice comes Father ..    Rose deflects such straight eyed advances and goes her own path while accepting invitations to the local dance.  The presence of the Church is everywhere and in the dance hall they are required to keep apart while hoAldi get one another while the Priest including the presence of Father …. they leave enough space not to be sinful.

The film is drawn out using a great deal of passage from the present to the past.  It in done with good untroublingbpassage and with the versatile Vanessa Redgrave playing the Lady Rose and the unnerving accurate Rooney Mara as the younger vunerable Rose.

Inconsistencies and alterations. Implausibilities? 

Very strongly held views on this film have come from many who find the story confusing and too contrived in its far fetched coincidences and shaping of characters that feature less in the book than put to purposes dramatic here.  Some even call it a travesty.  Sebastian Barry having sold the rights keeps his counsel and his silence is taken as being far from endorsement. There certainly are large parts of the long history left in the book and a Rooney Mara’s Rose here has a prominent role in a central love story which contains its central themes.  She is an incomer, she is a beautiful sophisticated woman, she is of independent mind, she is entering a part of ‘remnants of occupied’ Ireland beset with unfettered resentment, she enters a village which has ahigh morality  driven by the Church, she is also in proximity to state institutions which remove children and separate single mothers from their babies and lock them up and give their babies away for money.  She also is in proximity to a Medical system crudely operating the appliances of ECT and shock treatment as normal for mental illnesses or difference.  She also notices the formidable rectitude of everyone to hierarchical status including her domineering Aunt (Siobhan Redmond) who’s name along with a few others are not easy to find on press credits oddly.  So is it deplorable to drop large parts of a book and get Shakespearean in this gazette of Ireland observed by the Filmaker Jim Sheridan who wrote the script along with the late Johnny Ferguson.?  There are central characters in this which do not sit comfortably with some people.  The airman flying a Spitfire – they ignore the reconnaissance tasks in the West Coast Atlantic seaboard where U-boats were often found and Lough Foyle famously being the last outpost for plenty of U-boats and also forget the American airbases – the recent BBC My Mother and other Strangers gave you the opposite to this film, delivering a War soap opera – which were in Fermanagh and all across Northern Ireland full of troops and airmen training to be pilots in preparation for the Secret D-day landings.  8,000 in Kilkenny Co.Down alone. While the book may have consorted with the flying mission instead of being a land based soldier, it matters little.  Bonzos are quite capable of shooting down ‘foreign’ planes and planes crash.  Many flights no doubt took place over this very stretch of Ireland’s republic.   Where do you take fault?  Is it the neatness of parts of the linkages.  Is the element of delving into people’s past too trite?  Sheading interesting characters? Is the ludicrously large white collared Priest Father Gaunt too comical and pathetic a figure. His character is volumously turgid and corrupt of a conflicted man. Are the nurses of the old school too clean and Matronly while being intensely underlyingly cruel? All these questions to my mind are nonsense and in the core of the film Rose is telling you how unstable memory is. The record to has advanced writing out that history.  Some of it is fantasy and in parts some of the grim reality turns out to have another side.  I don’t care if half the time the story finds a simple way to the next part as we are closely kept to the woman at is heart trying to imagine what happened to her.  Can you imagine how much she must have struggled to put that behind her.  For her imaginings of what happened to ultimately coincide with a partial reality?  The questions need not be effecting in terms of how they are coming to you as essentially they are in the realm of broken fractured memory.  The script actually places false directions in Rose’s mind only.  The other characters are real and no such bewilderment is visited through them.  Their part is sometimes savage and brutal.  Rose’s is in a state of protection in a fixed world she has inhabited for 50 years?  Can you imagine the damage caused to her and many women like her?

Similarities

I opened the play The Steward of Christendom at random and came across the same times as here. There are common investigations and trials of the past – society in Ireland – undergone by Sebastian Barry of which I rate the play as masterly, profound, haunting, sad forgotten history, much as this film indeed takes us into and it is quite political but Donal McCann made it definitely ‘other’ about the human improsoned in Ireland. Inside the Institution and outside on the Island fighting seeming wrongs. It made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end in its horrific prescience. Even now it inhabits the same place – even more so given the recent barbaric dreadful disclosures of previous generations guilt and the pain inflicted in those institutions.  Here’s the line I found straight on opening its pages of the powerful orderly Smith – Even in the ward of old dames with their dead brains, have some of them opened their eyes and are weeping to be woken, with your bloody shouting.  Do you want to go in with them, old man? After I beat you! Sebastian Barry on the case even then.

Eric Bana takes a high dose of listening to his requirement for enquiry about Rose.
The rich dramatic material at play and the fascinating historical backdrop means there’s plenty here that proves initially appealing. The young Rose is trapped by her sexuality, arousing interest in men without the slightest provocation on her part yet facing the full force of blame from those around her. The film briefly explores the complicated rituals of dating at the time and the dangers of a bruised male ego when a woman dares to turn a man down.
Initially there was a backlash in contemporary Ireland to the book with its closeness to history and claims of abuse ever in the headlines playing out.  It was seen in reviewers eyes as being far fetched and characterisations of romance purile and simplistic. For the film it’s seen likewise by many. The closing of the film is too contrived and unexpected as Vanessa Redgrave holds centre stage with her marbles intact.  The Secret Scripture use devices of story telling which only flow smoothly in books but it is admittedly hard to convey in the time period of a movie.  Demands of twists and turns though have been dealt with very satisfactorily by Jim Sheridan and there is no overplay of the gestures and realisations as they unfold.  With Vanessa Redgrave playing Beethoven’a Moonlight Sonata, (an accusatory critic paled at its repetitiveness) in solitary moments in a room, we see the breathing diaphragm of a living person recollecting her past.  It is not only sweet and convincing it is powerful and moving.

For the time periods to intermingle we have to have contrast and Susan Lynch playing the part of a present day nurse becomes a key vehicle for the sensitivity of history learnt. Her knowing, caring, is in seeing the woman in Lady Rose and reflecting on what she has gone through over forty years.  With the instruction having been given to assess her being taken up by a psychiatrist who is intrigued by the fortitude and forceful will of Lady Rose, is Eric Bana who plays admirable the ‘outside’ caring professional, quick to note discrepancies in the work of his peer, the notable Dr Jello  of Adrian Dunbar who is in charge with emptying the establishment and sees it as in ‘the line of duty’ as a role he plays with predictable solidity.   Dr Grene on the other hand is given slack and time by Sebastian Barry to develop a quick relationship of patient and Doctor which in present times of austerity are unimaginable.  Nevertheless an authors due – the slack given on occasion to movies due to time scale particularly in adapting books – is to make plausible a story’s reach.  Eric Bana and Susan Lynch form a convincing team and share the sandwiches, lunchbox treats and soups etc. or whatever sustenance is at hand in between Rose’s rest and elderly ramblings.  They too remain in the ghost like building emptying around them.  That is when switches occur back to Rooney Maras action packed life take us into a believable village – preposterous to critics of the book – with fabrications of conflicts infighting and japes and foolery unbetoken of Ireland of the time.


Irony lost on viewers

Sebastian Barry has of course given some ribald irony and an edit of preposterous heft to the story as if to say – Ireland, you were present when this was happening around your ears yet all you could do was turn a blind eye and more than that get caught up in rebellion against a country at war and a religiosity which tore the faith in God out of you and created a purgatory here on earth. It is tangible to see this cussedness in Irish people of that time but it causes more pain it would seem.  The truth always too has its victims. That is the line, the horrific line this film wishes to take us over and into a powerful emotionally troubling period for the characters who represent in fiction real people’s lives unimaginable at this distance horribly corrupted and ruined.  So there is a backlash of morality fighting for concealment as due reflection turns over too many stones close to the perpetrators unable to come to terms with their own families part in these vexing times.  Why drag up the past?  The reason is it uncoils itself in many ways not least in being held in so, it becomes repeated as a manifestation of ancient held in guilt in the sub-cncious passed on.  The doplar effect of the mind.  Séan Hillen in his Irelantis fictional world creates a counter narrative in art with the juxtaposed John Hinde visions of Ireland and as richly as film and novel forms.  More is essential for understanding ourselves the better.

There are scenes in the film which many will find arguable and condonable however I see those particularly disturbing pieces of work as entirely plausible credible entries to the hidden stories Ireland has masked for decades.  It may not be the truth but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the unfurling detail.  It is why it must be examined for what it contains, not for what you would like it to appear.


No chemistry? It’s not totally about their relationship but what hovers around it.

On parallel works

Hence the auld triangle goes jingle jangle. From Galway to Dingle, from Derry to West Cork it’s been happening for decades. Both the internment of the young and vunerable and the institutional abuses therein. The Steward of Christendom by Sebastian Barry was an intensely brilliant play I’ve seen several times and had on it acting – the unforgettable The Dead film character of Gabriel Conroy played by Donal McCann whose performance in John Huston’s 1987 film of the Joyce short is itself a piece of Irish history and also a masterful core part of Irish Cultural excellence in all its various themes.

The themes of the play are not equivalent in this film but provide another shape to the times within this film. For a synopsis of The Steward of Christendom – I’ve extracted the following from a ubiquitous source. The play opens in a county home (an inpatient psychiatric facility) in Baltinglass, Ireland in 1932, some years after Irish independence. In the opening scene, Dunne (Donal McCann) appears to be raving incoherently, reliving an episode of his childhood. As the play continues, Dunne slips from moments of lucidity to reliving parts of his career as a senior officer in the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), especially the handover of Dublin Castle to Michael Collins in 1922 after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He also relives memories of his family, particularly his daughters, Annie, Maud, and Dolly. Dunne is also visited by the ghost of his son Willie, killed in WWI; Willie’s ghost appears to him in the form a 13-year-old child but dressed in the soldier’s uniform of his 18-year-old self.

Here the date focussed on by Barry is the early 1940’s. The institutions had been around and become part of the identity of Ireland. In Belfast the 1932 move to Stormont from what was and had been the Northern Ireland Parliament one hundred yards from QFT in the now Theological College since partition in 1925. Sebastian Barry covers this ground in much of his work, of institutional Ireland of State and Health the life on the streets and rural world grippingly as he loosely affirms family connections with the Thomas Dunne the Dublin Metropolitan Police Commander in the play. So too this film for its depiction of a former period of important movement in Ireland. These histories are intertwined and Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera both had ‘seats’ at the Belfast Union College but never once collected from the fifty boxes of the MPs the Order papers of the day for that emerging Parliament. One could play the card Eamon de Valera was a double agent to the British hegemony as future republicans were to similarly trade their countries status. Not in a film though as truth is mainly stranger than fiction.

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Conclusion ####4

I began with a mindset carrying ideas of the lukewarm critical reception of the book and film, both inhabiting that doubt common to adaption of part historical narratives.  I need not have concerned myself too much because this film opens up a layer of life which is seldom considered in its continued influence and in the magnitude of its shaping usand the identity formed as a Nation on its multiple layers of relationships across continents, across short sea journeys and across hedges and parishes.  It harbours a fiction I see to contain many probable realities. I never read the book.  In the depiction of Lady Rose played brilliantly on both parts. Rooney Mara as the young independent free spirited, intelligent incomer beauty full of warmth and expectation and the kaleidoscopic thespian skills not wasted or lost of Vanessa Redgrave, herself no stranger to loss or to Ireland’s perplexing past, is not only endearingly charming but purposely disjointedly harmonious and comforting in its plainness.  There is nothing plain under the surface no matter what the Irish take or spin on it happens to be or where the deniers – and they are the ‘plain’ folk of Ireland themselves, mostly due to present many frstations of suffering across the world would prefer to banish and put away in a state of complacent bewilderment.  If only that were our only path.  The Secret Scripture is written – a form of blasphemy- in black on the Bible – as in the Temperance Hotel (you could say it was a depiction of Ulster which has many many connections with Sligo) – here is a Lilliputian Jonathan Swift world of male believe.  Now and then.  The Bible being the only book – in this puritan hotel – is the only marginila Rose has to take into her incarceration as a hidden diary.  For its uncovering, not matter it’s Preposterous retrieval there are unsettling truths like the words of the Bible itself.  As it is not a Book which is safe in the Clergies hands nor taken with pillars of salt in communion amongst the suppressed and mal treated citizens, already infiltrated by a siege power of a monarchist force.  Since the 1166 occupation the persistent and systematic entrapment is in plain sight from the pulpit and before the pulpit.  Both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland contrite and corrupt in unity of suppression against Gods will.  This film will be seen initially as a passing anecdotal fable worthy of a watch but light on appeal.  It will upset and conflict with perceptions narrow and broad but I would say it will after several viewings reveal itself in time to be full of its own contested narrative slowly bringing a reckoning to bear as its bold and more extreme view is received as history continues to recite its clarion vision.  It is there for us to see in a wider sense and while novels, films can only open some fictional presentation of a past long gone it is always a sudden shock to see its proximity to truth and realisation is slow but within reach.  On a question alone of the mix up of plot and some too fanciful occurrences I knock it back from being a 5 as it is to my mind of a very determined voice setting out to familiarise the world and those closer with the inexcusable period in the past in this country – worse if most probably being effected unknown to us in other parts of the world – and it is a piece of the pyramid of truth being built in memory of those children and women.

It is like a whisky chaser hitting your throats but this is why the fondness for diversion is like dashing your head on the rocks.  So much is ventured there is no small comfort to be had except through thinking along the lines I think Jim Sheridan, Sebastian Barry and the fine strong cast found themselves nurturing.  While it is discomforting it is due plenty of deliberation.

John Graham

22 March 2017

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre from Friday 24 March through to and including  30th March and on General release.

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Post Behan Brectian Proustian stories

In Ireland the confinement of Women and Men distinguished little in Mental Institutions from the Prisons like the Mountjoy that inspired the Dominic Behan The auld triangle goes jingle jangle. The lyrics still are chilling and how the Bi-sexual Brendan Behan came to them is anyone’s guess but the waking traingle of the Prison warder still makes people sit up and listen to these lyrics – the last verse.

In the female prison there are seventy women 

And I wish it was with them that I did dwell 

And that auld triangle, went jingle jangle 

All along the banks of the Royal Canal

Was the mind of Ireland imprisoned during these times?

From The Quare Fellow of 1956

ACT 1:
A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To begin the morning

The warder bawling

Get out of bed and clean up your cell,

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

And the lag was weeping…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)

ACT 2:

A hungry feeling came o’er me stealing

And the mice were squealing in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

On a fine spring evening,

The lag lay dreaming

The seagulls wheeling high above the wall,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
The screw was peeping

The lag was sleeping

While he lay weeping for the girl Sal…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The wind was rising

And the day declining

As I lay pining in my prison cell

And that old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.
In the female prison

There are seventy women…

(SONG BREAKS OFF HERE)
The day was dying and the wind was sighing,

As I lay crying in my prison cell,

And the old triangle

Went jingle jangle,

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

ACT III, Scene II (end of play):

In the female prison

There are seventy women

I wish it was with them that I did dwell,

Then that old triangle

Could jingle jangle

Along the banks of the Royal Canal.

To this song provided for The Quare Fellow by brother Dominic we can add along the themes of imprisonment is this universal song. 

I shall be released

By Bob Dylan

They say ev’rything can be replaced

Yet ev’ry distance is not near

So I remember ev’ry face

Of ev’ry man who put me here

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

They say ev’ry man needs protection

They say ev’ry man must fall

Yet I swear I see my reflection

Some place so high above this wall

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd

Is a man who swears he’s not to blame

All day long I hear him shout so loud

Crying out that he was framed

I see my light come shining

From the west unto the east

Any day now, any day now

I shall be released

 

End

Carol : A Film Review

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Director, Todd Haynes, Cast, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacy, John Magaro, Cory Michael Smith, Carrie Brownstein, Kevin Crowley, Nik Paget.
UK/USA/France. Duration 1hr 58mins. Cert. 15.
The Price of Salt
Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel “The Price of Salt,” is a love story set in an impassioned fire of attraction, longing, desire, openness and discovery. Therese the younger attraction to Carol our central character, is played by the dreaming, longing attentive Rooney Mara who is a shopgirl seen in a Christmas of that age. Shopper Carol Aird played by the top to toe extravagantly dressed, furred, Cate Blanchett is no less a striking image. They share a moment in their roles in the bustling Department store parting with no more than a shared connection of each’s attractiveness to the other.
Therese Belivet is looking through Carol and seeing a mirror image of a confidence she admires, possibly aspires to and reflecting her dreaming youth and beguiling imagination of what is to come. Therese is almost lynx like and mercurial with natural beauty and open eyes. If Carol has a mask it is her assuredness which carries her through despite her inner demons and uncertainties.
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The art of attraction is a frisson of design found in a world view and here reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn. Seen as we have the recent ad with Hepburn restored in a dark chocolate chauffeur driven role, it is a hard act to follow. We are brought into a confident arena of New York space in which Therese is a foal and Carol a fully developed throughbred ace and pilot of her generous friendships including Abby (Sarah Paulson) who is besotted though an instrument of Carols muse.
Abby is a muse from an earlier stage of the decade long marriage to Harge (Kyle Chandler) Carols omnipresent ex-husband whose remaining love for her is always a danger and sometimes unmanageable presence due to their daughters upbringing bringing with it all the confusions a young child has to cope with when their mother and father live apart.
Abby entered the collection of relationships we learn near the 7 year itch.
She has moved on remaining friends but Harge uses her as sabre to thrust control over Carols life in bring up their child.
Higher or lower
Highsmiths men never are (Ripley excused due to intellect?!) ones who garner sympathy when cast as villain nor hero when cast as saviour.
Her own complex personality not so much causes her not to ‘know’ men but to never be driven to use any insight preferring to view the female role in its complexity. That is the writers, perhaps even virtuous, gift – to so describe and construct a female character as to have every bone and sinew flex and appear real and so powerful. Carol is a brilliantly composed, rounded – in the sense the flaws and rawness are clear, – even the coyness, control in the lovemaking scenes – when she is in command is done with a finesse of restraint and therefore creating more depth and characterisation in place of the written word.
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Perfecting the Story
The narrative sweep of the film has two core turning points.
The first is when Harge makes things difficult for Carol to hold onto
Mood and Period Pitch perfect
Therese has a casual boyfriend whose (Highsmith again reigns) besotted and dullard view is thrust into wider confusion for the young girl finding female attractiveness a better option, also another companion also fancying her, a journalist friend, Dannie (John Magaro) on The New York Times, whose more realistic view contains a view of Therese for her skills – she has an ambitious photographers eye and it is cultivated in several ways – beautifully involving the look of the film – and he encourages her wider and higher than her own vision by his access to the newspaper and it’s oeuvre. Talking of which Harge is also a character lifted into a role which takes a lot of playing. His blinkeredness concerning business and success – evident through the lifestyle they both can live in separation, and the controlling freakery he uses as lighting the blue touchpaper Carol is struggling with concerning her array of feelings and values makes for a memorable and persuasive part. It cannot be easy playing the villain though the otherwise I’m sure, charming Chandler might coyly retort ‘it’s tough but it pays well!’
Similarly Dannie is a good part and when it is shown he watches Sunset Boulevard a lot – to see what’s not being said – that point serves the silences we come across.
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Finessing
The masterly Todd Haynes has prepared for us several emotional hammer blows while at the same time created featherlight moments. Music is the oeuvre for two most telling pieces of love visualisation when it’s used in singular tonal orchestral refrain with close up to set it apart and capture the moment. If anyone else spotted that code within it I would appreciate knowing otherwise I’m out on a limb! The direction is superbly slow and measured. Never are scenes broken up by constant reframing but single long shots are frequent. In them the sides are sometimes brought in by corridor, door, booth, to create almost a square, asymmetrically at times which gives the sense of looking in on a part of the story which is intimate and out of our participation. One such scene is late on at a family gathering at home when mannerisms are affecting and behavior is saviour end as story.
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Her friends are not in short supply. Out of the book the conservative Highsmith is elevated and our vision encapsulated by the real lovers in thrall is a never overtaken image.
Once viewed once smitten as they entwine as transference of each other’s adoration. Pure and erotic and poetry captured by the cinematographer, as accomplished by the storyteller, Highsmith, the screenwriter, Phyllis Nagy and Todd Haynes weight of delivery.

Conclusion #####5
This film will endure for many reasons, it’s consummate excellent resume and cast, it’s exploration of the sexes and the period stifling orthodoxies of times past. It shapes the New York scenery and the dominance of commerce as a tool to reconfigure America after the War. Optimism outside of McCarthyism is pronounced as the bold confidence of the seemingly open land of opportunity provides insufficient soul and lacks retrospect.
Hides are tough and role play counts a great deal. Honesty is another tool which you use or set aside to preserve the status quo and perpetuity of the age of normal. Cinema of the time was not reflective except for the likes of ‘Whose afraid of ..’ and steamers of the passionate clashing with the errant youth but in the mainstream and novels of this kind were rare taking on marginal live and sexual mores. The delivery of this is therefore fresh and new hitherto unseen in such awesome depth and the playing of all involved is brilliant in conveying the masterful artful direction of Todd Haynes and even the clothes are spectacularly neat conveyances of human structures and fashion. If only someone would add a splash of mud or dirt on car hubs, wheels, and let the windscreens dirt up a bit it would be perfect as a film!

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Phyllis Nagy Screenwriter

John Graham

26 November 2015

Belfast

At QFT Belfast from This Friday until 10 December 2015 so no excuse for not seeing it and maybe a couple of times!

http://www.queensfilmtheatre.com will give further guidance

These are the present scheduled dates and times

This Week
Fri 27th Nov – 6:20pm Fri 27th Nov – 8:50pm
Sat 28th Nov – 6:20pm Sat 28th Nov – 8:50pm
Sun 29th Nov – 6:00pm Sun 29th Nov – 8:30pm
Mon 30th Nov – 6:20pm Mon 30th Nov – 8:50pm
Tue 1st Dec – 6:20pm Tue 1st Dec – 8:50pm
Wed 2nd Dec – 6:20pm Wed 2nd Dec – 8:50pm
Upcoming
Thu 3rd Dec – 6:20pm Thu 3rd Dec – 8:50pm
Fri 4th Dec – 8:50pm
Sat 5th Dec – 1:00pm Sat 5th Dec – 3:50pm
Sun 6th Dec – 7:50pm
Mon 7th Dec – 8:50pm
Tue 8th Dec – 8:50pm
Wed 9th Dec – 8:50pm
Thu 10th Dec – 8:50pm